In 1975, Rocco retired from NASA and accepted a position as president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Resource Recovery, a joint industry/labor effort to develop technologies for recovering materials and energy from solid waste. He considered this a challenge of national importance.
In 1981, he was appointed president of the Space Transportation Systems Group of Rockwell International Corporation, where he was responsible for the production of hardware for the Space Shuttle Orbiter and other space hardware. In 1987, he was appointed vice president of corporate development, Rockwell International, and he retired from that position in 1989. During his retirement, he pursued his hobbies, including civil war history and attending sporting events, with characteristic vigor.
Throughout his long professional career, Rocco demonstrated impeccable integrity. He was a shining example of the motto he had learned at the military academy, “Duty, Honor, Country.” Rarely does one encounter a more committed or effective manager than Rocco Petrone. He always focused on the objective, was well informed of technical details, and was rigidly disciplined. Some called him a tough manager because he required the same discipline from those who reported to him as he demonstrated himself.
Rocco Petrone left a legacy of excellence in the art and science of managing massive technical programs involving people from different cultures with a wide range of talents and skills. Guided by extraordinary engineering insight, he had an uncanny ability to ask the right questions when assessing the integrity of a design or the readiness of hardware for flight. He also had the courage to do what seemed right, often under great stress. The successful launches of all of the Saturn V rockets are testimony to his excellence.
Rocco is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Ruth Holley Petrone, and four adult children, Michael Petrone, Kathy Petrone Posey, Terry Petrone, and Nancy Petrone.